Editor’s Note: Each week we cross-post an excerpt from Katrina vanden Heuvel’s column at the WashingtonPost.com. Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.
Progressives are on the move once more. Wisconsin lit the spark, as workers, students, teachers and farmers occupied the state’s capitol in February and launched recall elections that sobered conservative Republican Governor Scott Walker and his legislative allies. Occupy Wall Street turned that spark into a conflagration that swept the nation. Last week, in Ohio and Maine and even Mississippi, voters overwhelmingly rejected efforts to trample worker rights, constrict the right to vote and roll back women’s rights.
These electoral victories have led pundits to wonder whether Occupy Wall Street will imitate the Tea Party and stand candidates for office. But Occupy is a protest movement—one that has transformed the landscape of politics, by forcing the country to face the reality of entrenched inequality and power and address what should be done about it. It will take others to fill the space that it has opened.
Progressive Majority (PM), the only progressive organization dedicated to the recruitment and support of candidates at the state and local level, is leading the effort to turn that protest into power. It has just launched Run for America, joining with partners such as Moveon.org, US Action, People for the American Way, Rebuild the Dream and the New Organizing Institute in an audacious drive to recruit, train and support 2,012 candidates in 2012 for state, local and national office. In barely two months, PM President Gloria Totten reports that more than 1,000 activists have signed up to run. The energy of Wisconsin and Occupy Wall Street is finding its way into the electoral process.
Progressive Majority’s initiative is a good example of how movements transform politics. Now marking its tenth anniversary, PM has elected hundreds of progressives to office, helping to flip six state legislative bodies—from Washington to Minnesota—and some forty local governments.
In 2010, while PM’s candidates fared better than most, progressives shared in the beating voters delivered to Democrats. Dismay at the rotten economy, enthusiasm among followers of the Tea Party and a deluge of conservative money swept through the elections. Republicans not only captured the House of Representatives, they picked up state legislatures, winning a total of 675 legislative seats, a tidal wave larger than any since 1938.
But Republicans mistook Tea Party passion for majority opinion.
Editor’s Note: Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.